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What is the Studio Music and Jazz Department at the Frost school of Music?

The mission of the Studio Music and Jazz Instrumental Degree Programs is to:

  • Prepare jazz instrumentalists and vocalists to enter the music profession or graduate school;
  • Identify, recruit, and retain high quality students who seek to pursue studio/jazz performance as a career;
  • Foster faculty creativity and performance which serves as a role model for students;
  • Develop, and revise courses in jazz improvisation, jazz arranging/composition and provide on and off campus performance opportunities;
  • Produce in our on campus facility, recordings for the Down Beat Student Music Awards, compact disks, radio and Internet broadcast; and
  • Provide a platform of learning that includes performance, composition/arranging, technology, conducting, scholarship and production.

What distinguishes it from other programs throughout the world?

  • A track record of excellence.
  • Over 150 Down Beat Awards.
  • Many well known alumni.
  • An experienced teaching staff that are on campus on a daily basis.
  • Many visiting artists and clinicians.

What can students expect from their experience?

  • A talented student body at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
  • Small classes.
  • Diverse ensemble experience including classical performance opportunities.
  • Many recording opportunities.

Jazz Programs

Jazz programs allow musicians to become highly skilled practitioners of one of America’s most exciting art forms. By studying with faculty and learning through collaboration with peers, jazz students form a base of the skills they need to establish a life in this vibrant genre. Playing music with other accomplished musicians is one of the most effective ways to improve skills, and a jazz program provides plenty of ensemble opportunities to do just that. A jazz program also provides students with skills in complementary areas like music technology, music theory, and music history.

What is Jazz?

Jazz is a uniquely American musical genre. With roots in West Africa and a complex aesthetic influenced by a bittersweet social history, the genre combines global influences to create a distinctive sound. These days, jazz is composed of a variety of sub-genres, and the family tree of jazz grows broader each year. Hybridity still reigns queen, though, and those drawn to musical innovation still find jazz to be a particularly hospitable musical home.

Why Should I Go to School for a Jazz Degree?

Jazz is a musical genre that did not originate in the academy. Indeed, part of jazz’s appeal is its democratic origin, through which regular people created, influenced, and evolved the genre within ordinary homes and communities. These days, though, the study of jazz is an established academic field. Jazz students find that they have the best chance (and access to the most tools) as they work their way through a degree.

A degree in jazz places your musical practice in the hands of capable faculty with decades of experience. Your instructors will advise you on the best ways to hold up your shining strengths and address your biggest musical challenges.

What Should I Have Accomplished Before Applying to Jazz School?

As a jazz school applicant, you will need to already have achieved a basic proficiency in your instrument of choice. As with any application for a higher educational program, your application will involve a statement of purpose, grade transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Unlike non-musical fields, though, your application will likely also involved an audition. This audition allows the admissions committee to see your potential first-hand. Schools know that applicants have not yet mastered their instrument; this is why they are applying to school in the first place. The committee is looking for committed and devoted students of jazz who have the drive required to achieve excellence over time.

What Do Jazz Majors Learn?

  • Performance skills. As part of a variety of ensembles, jazz majors have the opportunity to perform time and time again. Experience in a variety of performance situations is the best way to become an expert performer who is ready for any performance curve ball.
  • Business skills. All musicians need business skills, and jazz majors are no exception. Business classes help jazz majors learn how to protect themselves as artists and entrepreneurs.
  • Repertoire skills. Working jazz musicians must be flexible. The more well-versed you are in standard jazz repertoire, the more able you will be to rise to any occasion in the future.
  • Collaboration skills. Musicians work with a variety of collaborators in various combinations. Extensive experience in collaboration during your degree means that you will have a skill worth its weight in gold: the ability to work well with anyone.

What Does a Jazz Program Entail?

As you work toward completion of your jazz degree, you will begin by learning the jazz standards every musician must know. Not only will you commit these tunes to memory, but you will learn their social context, history, and the musical theory associated with these pieces. Every genre of music has its own norms and conventions, and jazz is no exception. The more you learn about the building blocks of jazz, the better equipped you will be to riff on and improvise over these tunes.

Heavy emphasis on improvisation takes place during any kind of jazz program. Depending on your instrument of focus, you will learn about improvisational techniques and tools so that you can develop your unique voice. Improvisation is one of the things that differentiates you from every other musician. A school of music is the perfect place to experiment, take musical risks, and learn from your peers.

What Kinds of Careers Do Jazz Majors Pursue?

Jazz majors pursue a variety of careers, including working as professional musicians who may tour nationally or internationally, or focus on establishing a name for themselves in a single city. Some jazz majors pursue advanced degrees, ultimately ending up in the honorable role of teaching new musicians. Some jazz majors work as studio musicians, music engineers, or in other music-related fields. The best way to get a sense of where a school’s alumni end up is to ask them.

What Should I Look for in a Jazz Program?

One of the greatest assets a jazz program can provide is a variety of performance opportunities with diverse ensembles. Whether you’re playing in a big band, a salsa music orchestra, or a quintet or sextet, each group performance opportunity allows you to practice different kinds of collaborative skills. At a school of jazz music, many of these ensembles are run under the oversight of faculty members with decades of experience in music. This unique opportunity to be mentored alongside your peers is one of the most significant advantages a jazz degree can provide a musician.

How Do I Find the Best Jazz School for Me?

The Frost School of Music is a highly-acclaimed, world renowned music school that offers a variety of areas of concentration, including jazz. The Frost School is the only school that applies The Frost Method™, a pedagogical approach that places students in the best position for learning. Working in small groups with qualified faculty, you will have ample opportunity to learn the standards, improvise heavily, and work under the tutelage of esteemed mentors.